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Baldwin Park Living Friday, Sep. 20, 2019 1 year ago

Escape room brings thrills to Baldwin Park

Escape Artists Orlando has brought its second location — and two brand-new escape games — to Baldwin Park.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

With sixty minutes on the clock ticking away, the clues and puzzles are set before you and your teammates taunt you — after all, solving them is your ticket to escape.

This is the concept of an escape room, and Escape Artists is bringing its second such location to the Village Center this month.

In an escape-room game, according to Escape Artists, “teams of two to six players are locked in a room and will have to work together in order to solve puzzles, decode cyphers and find secret passages in order to escape within the 60-minute time limit.”

Escape Artists founders and co-owners Nancy Philips and Brian Bechtel opened their first location in Sanford in 2016. They got hooked on the escape games about a year and a half prior, when Philips won tickets to play an escape game elsewhere.

“We really had no idea what we were getting into, but when we went and played we fell in love with it,” Bechtel says. “We ended up playing every game in the region available at the time.”

The two started playing escape games all the time, and they met an escape-room owner on the west coast of Florida who was having trouble getting one of her games up and running. Bechtel is a handyman and Philips is great with interior design, so the two offered to help her out. 

“We’d go out there and help her, (and) around that time I kept telling Brian, ‘We should do this for ourselves,’” Philips says. “We had been talking about potentially doing a business, but after we helped her out we were like, ‘OK, maybe we can do this.’”

The two always had ideas for how a game could be done better or differently, and what they realized is that they had many ideas that other people enjoyed exploring, too. They opened the Escape Artists Sanford location in 2016 with two games, and it has since expanded to four.

“We spend a long time in developing our games, but in addition to that, our games in Sanford had received such high critical reviews — there are review websites that people really hardcore into the industry (use) — and our games got high praise from these review sites,” Bechtel says. “That’s kind of what we’re known for, is doing things that are kind of unlike our competition. We run our own race.”

The positive reviews led to sales of duplicates of their games, and eventually the two got to the point where they were able to quit their full-time jobs and be in the escape-room industry for a living. 

“To be able to sell games, it was confirmation that we were doing well,” Philips says. “What we created was well-received.”

One of the escape games takes place in what looks like an old manor on a stormy night. (Courtesy Escape Artists Orlando)

The Sanford location does not have any more room for expansion, so they began their search for the second Escape Artists location last year. The space they’re in now at Baldwin Park’s Village Center, Philips said, is a perfect location because they’re now able to cater to more of the Orlando area.

They finished construction on the Baldwin Park location in mid-May and now are spending time testing and fine-tuning the games they’ve installed. Each game has its own plot, and those who play the games are there to possibly find something, steal something, or another activity along those lines.

“You’ll be solving puzzles and finding hidden compartments and rooms,” Philips says. “It’s definitely going to require a team effort. Everyone will end up having to participate. We have people that come and say, ‘I’m going to be terrible at this, I don’t know why I’m here,’ but then the 60 minutes starts and they’re so involved that they forgot they said that.”

It’s been a labor of love … it’s a monumental effort, so when we see people come in and 

appreciate that effort and have fun, that to me is the biggest reward out of it.” — Brian Bechtel

Bechtel and Philips want people to know that the games are fun for everyone, and no outside knowledge is required.

“Everything we design, the No. 1 thing is that everything you need to escape is in the room,” Bechtel says. “We’ve had groups that have children like 8 years old playing and were able to solve things, and we’ve had a team of 75-year-olds play.”

Anyone interested can follow Escape Artists on social media or call for information.

“It really is very rewarding, because the whole time we’ve been looking for a location I’ve been working on building out these games and we’ve been building out these puzzles,” Bechtel says. “It’s been a labor of love … it’s a monumental effort, so when we see people come in and appreciate that effort and have fun, that to me is the biggest reward out of it. It’s almost like an art. 

“We just want to make sure that once we’re open … the experience they’re getting is the experience we want them to get,” Bechtel says. “We hope to get everybody hooked on escape games like we are.”

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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